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I was in elementary school one block away from our house on Grand Avenue when I first learned that my mother had a terrible fear of weather, threatening clouds and especially tornadoes. I remember being in class and over the loudspeaker, the Principal called me to the OFFICE. I was terrified and all I could do was try to think of anything I had done. Everyone in the room looked at me with the same dread of fear. The OFFICE was just around the corner from my classroom. It was a place I had never been to before. Only the sick children, bad children or teachers were allowed to go there.

There was a small window in the door and I saw a glimpse of my mother. She had come to take me out of school. She never said a word, we just walked out of the building and got into the station wagon where my 2 brothers and sister were waiting. We drove around the corner and got out and she hurried us inside. All she said was “Go to the dining room.” The dining room table was covered in blankets that hung to the floor, making it look like a weird tent. “Now, get under the table and stay there.” We just looked at each other, but she was not kidding and I could tell from her eyes she was either scared, crazy, or both. We got into the tent.

Under the table were pillows and more blankets. We were instructed to grab one of each. My little brother decided this was a perfect time for a pillow fight. Mother was listening to the radio and the national weather service siren was beginning to sound. We were under a severe storm warning but Mother could feel in her bones that we were in danger.

“There’s a tornado out there, I just know it.”

The only tornado I had ever heard of was in The Wizard of Oz and it picked up Dorothy’s whole house and threw it into another State. My little sister started crying and I covered my whole self with the blanket. In about 10 minutes mother tore the blankets off the table and made us help her fold up “all this mess”.

Fear is contagious I found out, because it took me 46 years to get over being afraid of storms. In that year of life, I had breast cancer and found out that storms were nothing compared to that. I don’t run outside and look for a tornado, but I don’t sit around in dread either. Mother spent the last part of her life in a nursing home watching the weather channel and worrying about the weather, holding onto pillows and climbing under the blankets. She used to say that she was” not afraid of the devil but a tornado was something else.”

Now, I paint the storm clouds and look for the color that is in them. The formations are usually splendid if you look at them as works of God’s creation. When I allowed myself to face my fear instead of hide from it, I was able to see with new eyes and look into it with fascination.

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